[We're going to have several articles over the next few days that cover file synchronization, mobile data management, Dropbox, and Dropbox alternatives. This article is the second of four. -Jack]
Prediction: The consumerization of IT will force vendors into a new era of interoperability.
I started thinking about this idea after reading a tweet from Brian, who wrote that Citrix Receiver won't integrate with Dropbox, but will integrate with a Dropbox competitor, ShareFile. Guess who owns ShareFile? That's right: Citrix.
Citrix isn't the only vendor trying to come up with a so-called "enterprise version of Dropbox." VMware (Project Octopus), Microsoft (SkyDrive) and others are doing the same thing. But from the end users' perspective, we already have an enterprise version of Dropbox. It's called Dropbox.
I'm not saying that any of these enterprise vendors' services are bad, or that they shouldn't try to compete with Dropbox (or Box or one of the other popular consumer cloud storage services that people now use for business). I've never used ShareFile or SkyDrive, and VMware hasn't even released Octopus yet. What I am saying is that these vendors are flooding the market with services that may not always play nice with other vendors' services, and it's going to be a nightmare for users.
We already see this issue in other areas of consumer technology. Take music, for example. I absolutely love Spotify. I think streaming is the future of music, and I happily pay 10 bucks a month to get the service on my phone.
But Spotify doesn't totally get along with iTunes, where I have more than 30 GB of music stored on my personal laptop. I can sync most of my iTunes library with Spotify, but not some DRM-protected tracks or my unnecessarily large collection of live Dave Matthews Band albums. Furthermore, my iTunes library is tied to my personal laptop, so I can't sync it with my laptop at work. I end up just listening to my iPod most of the time and switching to Spotify when I want to listen to something I don't own. It's not an ideal user experience, but imagine how much worse it would be if I also used Google Music, Amazon Cloud Player and any other new music service.
Now apply this analogy to the business world. Having to switch between different cloud storage and collaboration services to perform different tasks or access different types of data will not sit well with users. The goal of consumerization is to make business processes simpler, not recreate the old way of doing things. Business users today expect technology to "just work," and when it comes to disparate systems, they expect them to "just work together." That's why Dropbox, Box and the like have been so successful. You can install them on any device and -- poof! -- your data magically appears. They just work together.
If enterprise IT vendors want to compete against Dropbox, Box and the like, they should go for it. This market is still very new, and a lot can change. But their products also need to work with these services. At least for now, that's where the users are, and in the era of consumerization, users are also the IT decision-makers.